Hamilton fastest in final practice

McLaren star sets the pace ahead of qualifying

By Mike Wise in Melbourne.   Last Updated: 17/03/12 5:29am

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Lewis Hamilton set the pace in final practice at the Australian Grand Prix on Saturday in a session which saw both Sebastian Vettel and Michael Schumacher spin out.

Sky+ and F1: Important Information

If you plan to Sky+ any of the live F1 programming from Australia, to save you searching for all the individual programmes in your Sky Guide we have series linked every live session - from the Practices on Friday to the Qualifying session on Saturday right through to the live race on Sunday morning.
Please note, if you intend to set your recordings individually, several of the programmes cross the 6am boundary where one broadcast day turns into another, therefore these will appear as two back-to-back programmes on your Sky Guide so you need to ensure you record both. The specific slots affected are:
Practice 2 on Friday morning (shown as 5.15am & 6am)
Qualifying on Saturday morning (shown as 5am & 6am)
The Race on Sunday morning (shown as 4.30am & 6am)

The McLaren driver underlined his team's credentials ahead of final qualifying with a fastest lap of one minute 25.681 seconds around the 5.303km Albert Park track.

Hamilton pipped Lotus's Romain Grosjean late in the session, with Red Bull's Mark Webber third fastest ahead of McLaren's Jenson Button.

Mercedes' Nico Rosberg ended the hour-long session fifth ahead of Schumacher and Vettel, who both ended up beached in the gravel.

Vettel's unwanted excursion came first, with the World Champion oversteering off the track at the Turn 6 right-hand bend.

"I'm stuck in the gravel," lamented Vettel, who said after Friday practice that he needed a step forward ahead of qualifying.

However, despite ending the session seventh fastest, he can reconcile himself with the fact that his time, a 1:26.211s, was the fastest set on Pirelli's medium tyres.

Unstuck

Schumacher followed him off the track in similar style during the closing moments of the session, the seven-times World Champion coming unstuck at Turn 9.

Both he and team-mate Rosberg were the early pacesetters, with Schumacher commenting at one stage that his car's DRS, which it has been revealed helps stalling to provide a further straightline speed boost, felt "too aggressive".

Williams driver Pastor Maldonado, Sauber's Sergio Perez and Toro Rosso's Daniel Ricciardo completed the top 10.

However, Ferrari pair Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa ended the session down in 16th and 18th places respectively.

With teams running different programmes in practice which allow for varying levels of fuel, tyre usage - and DRS and KERS use complicating the picture further - the session did not necessarily offer a clear picture of relative performance.

That will come during qualifying to follow later on Saturday. However, the sight of Ferrari's drivers so far down the timesheets hardly helps dispel the consensus that they face a difficult weekend.

Times:

1) Hamilton 1:25.681s 18 laps

2) Grosjean 1:25.758 21

3) Webber 1:25.900 20

4) Button 1:25.906 17

5) Rosberg 1:25.929 23

6) Schumacher 1:26.078 14

7) Vettel 1:26.211 12

8) Maldonado 1:26.470 17

9) Perez 1:26.632 20

10) Ricciardo 1:26.723 17

11) Vergne 1:26.733 15

12) Raikkonen 1:26.737 19

13) Kobayashi 1:26.755 21

14) Hulkenberg 1:27.029 23

15) Senna 1:27.119 20

16) Alonso 1:27.323 19

17) Di Resta 1:27.428 22

18) Massa 1:28.023 19

19) Kovalainen 1:28.341 19

20) Petrov 1:28.702 11

21) Glock 1:30.728 13

22) Pic 1:31.225 14

23) De la Rosa 1:3.114

24) Karthikeyan 1:33.261 13

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Practice 3 Times

F1 Driver Standings Table 14
Position Driver Nationality Team Pts
1 Hamilton McLaren 1:25.681
2 Grosjean Lotus 0.077
3 Webber Red Bull 0.219
4 Button McLaren 0.225
5 Rosberg Mercedes 0.248
6 Schumacher Mercedes 0.397
7 Vettel Red Bull 0.530
8 Maldonado Williams 0.789
9 Perez Sauber 0.951
10 Ricciardo Toro Rosso 1.042

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